There are more reasons to believe this week that South Carolina could upset Clemson than there have been all season.
The Gamecocks (8-3) were picked to finish fourth in the SEC East. They finished second. They were picked (by me at least) to win six games during the regular season. They’ve already won eight. They are, by almost any measure, ahead of schedule in head coach Will Muschamp’s second season. They will be playing amidst a home atmosphere that will be well north of electric.
Still, they are 14-point underdogs to No. 4 Clemson (10-1), which visits Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. game, and for all those reasons to think South Carolina can pull off the upset, there are two big reasons they can’t.
Clemson is second in the nation in sacks (39) and third in tackles-for-loss (93). For a Gamecocks offense that is ranked No. 88 in the nation in scoring, those numbers spell disaster. South Carolina is 84th in the nation in sacks allowed (25) and 40th in tackles-for-loss allowed (57).
“You don’t want to get into a one-dimensional game with this group like we did a year ago,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “They do a real good job pressuring the quarterback if they know you’re going to be in a throw situation the entire game it’s going to be a long day. You have stay balanced. You have to be hardheaded in the run game a little bit. When you play a front like this you’re not going to always hit a 20-yard run every time you run it. You have to stay patient and you can’t get one dimensional.”
Patient may not look pretty against Clemson’s defensive line and the likes of Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and company. The Tigers allow 3.09 yards per carry, the eighth-lowest total in the nation.
The moral of the story is, it’s going to be difficult for South Carolina to move the ball through the air or on the ground, which means offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is going to have to come up with the season’s most creative game plan, and even that may not be enough to avoid a fourth-straight loss to the Tigers.
Clemson 28, South Carolina 16